All ages can enjoy Hike Maui’s Short Waterfalls Walk. // © 2011 Hike Maui
The Short Waterfalls Walk costs $75 per person. Commission: 20 percent.
I used to tease my friend Carol by telling her that she was a wimp. She isn't afraid to say she's afraid. So, when I told her I had lined up a rainforest hike for us on Maui, she turned white.
"You mean, like crossing streams and swimming in mountain pools?" she gasped.
I reassured her that of all the options available from the outdoor adventure company Hike Maui, the Short Waterfalls Walk was the tamest. Finally, she agreed to join me.
I figured I could count on Hike Maui -- named 2010 Eco-tourism Operator of the Year by the Hawaii Ecotourism Association -- to make even the gentlest walk in the woods entertaining and educational. With outings that range from half- and full-day hikes to a daylong helicopter/horseback/hike combo, the firm does a great job of introducing all types of clients to the wonders of the island.
From the moment we met our guide, Tony, at the pickup point, he put our group at ease, even the wimps among us.
During the 45-minute van ride to the trailhead, he regaled us with information about the island, from the history of sugar cane to Maui landmarks.
Before we started walking, we assembled our provided backpacks with water bottles and water shoes while Tony passed out chunks of juicy Maui Gold pineapple. The first part of the trail bordered a little garden of pineapple, banana, papaya and passion fruit, planted by Hike Maui so that visitors could see how they grow firsthand. In fact, throughout the three-hour excursion, Tony pointed out a wide variety of other plants growing in their natural environment, such as mango, guava, ginger, coffee, heliconia, ti, avocado, banyan and hau trees, and he talked about how the ancient Hawaiians used them in their daily lives.
The first waterfall that we reached was set in a picturesque grove. Several hikers jumped right into the pool beneath it, but I sat on a rock with Carol to keep her company, enjoying the tranquil setting. I could tell she was building up her courage to get wet.
The toughest part of the hike, relatively speaking, was a short stream crossing that required us to keep our balance as we stepped from stone to stone. Carol hesitated, watched where the others had gone, then followed in their footsteps without faltering. Score one for the wimp, I thought.
By the time we reached the second pool, with its 20-foot cascade, little beads of sweat had broken out on Carol's brow.
"The water sure looks inviting," she said, dipping her toes in. "Maybe I'll just wade."
I followed her lead into the water while watching Tony demonstrate how to climb up rock ledges, then swing from a rope into the pool below. Carol and I, now paddling in invigorating water up to our necks, cheered for our fellow hikers who were brave enough to take the leap.
Drying off in the sun afterward, the group munched on granola bars that Tony provided for us, while he talked about the effect of Maui's natural environment on visitors.
"It never fails," he said. "No matter what types of people come on this hike, they end up happy when they get in the water."
Carol gave me a knowing smile. I knew I could never call her a wimp again.